Under Your Umbrella

Taking other people’s umbrellas is a great idea

Places I’ve lost an umbrella: the T, the trunk of someone else’s car, A-entryway of Winthrop House, H-entryway of Winthrop House, the dining hall of Winthrop House, an airplane. I would estimate my total losses of umbrellas in the last 10 years to be roughly 15. God only knows how many I lost as a baby. Some of them were really special, too—one that I’d had since eighth grade, and fondly called “Ducky,” featured a duck’s head as the handle. Ducky’s glass eyes were cracked and the red paint had chipped off his beak by last year, but I still cherished him. He was the A-entryway casualty. Then, one of my good friends bought me an umbrella for my birthday, specifically because she knows that I never have one. I lost it the next day riding the Blue Line to the aquarium.

Where all of my former umbrellas are, I have no idea. They have entered into the nebulous vortex of lost umbrellas—probably someone in the Financial District is enjoying one right now. But I’m not bitter. That’s because I take other people’s umbrellas.

“Now wait a second! Isn’t that stealing?” Well, friends, not exactly. You see, I don’t take people’s umbrellas that they clearly haven’t forgotten, having merely laid them aside. I don’t make George’s mistake in “Seinfeld” of thinking that the umbrellas in the metal cans at coffee shops are free. I only take umbrellas that are indubitably lost, like the one I took last week from my section room, which had been forlornly flung into a corner for some time. Since I have contributed so many umbrellas to the great Karmic Circle of Lost Precipitation Inhibitors, I feel that I can justifiably take others that I find. It’s just like those little give-a-penny, take-a-penny trays by cash registers, except with the necessary element of forgetfulness.

Umbrellas belong to a special class of items. They are vastly useful to everyone, but, unlike their size-specific cousin, the raincoat, they are not individualized. There are no “left-handed” umbrellas or “gluten-free” umbrellas. They are the everyman of protection from the elements. Consider the case of a lost pencil. You are rummaging in your bag to surreptitiously text someone, but then your eyes dart to an abandoned light-green pencil right under your seat. Of course you take it. Who is going to frantically come running into the classroom bawling over a lost pencil? Umbrellas and pencils both belong to that anonymously ubiquitous class of items; umbrellas simply cost $20 instead of 20 cents.

If you see me walking in the Yard on a rainy 45-degree day, which would mean anytime in March, under what seems to look suspiciously like that umbrella you lost in the Science Center, don’t worry. It probably is. But never fear, I have a feeling you’ll find another one if you just keep an eye out in Lamont Café.

Anna E. Boch ’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations concentrator in Winthrop House.

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